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When Does Something Become An Offensive Weapon?

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

When does something become an Offensive Weapon?

We recently represented an individual charged with Possession of an Offensive Weapon. The ‘weapon’ being a rounders bat. He had the item with him during the day as he travelled to university and then used the weapon during the course of a disagreement.

When I walk the dog at night I carry a large flashlight – probably similar in weight and the damage it could inflict on a person if used in such a way – so at what stage does a seemingly innocuous item become a ‘weapon’?

The law concerning this is contained within the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and in order to satisfy the charge, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  1. Has with him (possession);
  2. In any public place;
  3. Any offensive weapon

So proving he has it with him seems relatively easy, so we must consider if it is a public place – this is generally held to be a place to which the general public can gain access without obstruction. The key here is determining that the defendant is carrying an ‘offensive weapon’. The courts will be looking to see if there is reasonable excuse to be in possession of the item, if the item was used to cause fear or to threaten an individual or if there were plans in place to use the item to threaten or cause fear.

So on this basis a set of kitchen knives, purchased from the supermarket and placed in a handbag to take home, though clearly holding the potential for use as an offensive weapon would not constitute an offensive weapon for the purposes of the offence because their carrying could be justified and explained. A person could not however place a knife in their bag because they knew they would be walking home alone later. Similarly a sportsman en route to a fixture could carry his equipment with him both there and back but could not carry the same items if their intended use was for something other than use in their associated sport.

Our client was headed to university to sit an exam. When asked why he had the bat with him he said it reassured him to know it was there. You see, our client was recovering from a serious physical assault which had hospitalised him and for which he was still receiving treatment and required further surgical procedures. So being reassured by the presence of the bat in his bag is more understandable than it may first sound, but, in the eyes of the law it became an offensive weapon because its intended use was to cause harm (albeit to prevent further injury to himself).

Our client was sentenced to 4 months custody suspended for 2 years, and had a court imposed curfew (tagged) for 60 days and was very happy with the outcome as an immediate custodial sentence had been avoided.

If you are charged with an offence, give the Forrest Williams Team a call on 01623 397200 and we would be happy to have a chat with you about your situation and the circumstances of your offence and advise you further.


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